Professor Bob Abdrabboh reflects on his personal story and Arab American community


The Yemeni American News recently interviewed a great pillar in our community, Professor Bob Abdrabboh and learned some great wisdom from him. Here is what we learned:

Dr. Bob Abdrabboh was born in 1944 in the old city of Jerusalem. His family went to Kuwait on business and he came directly from Kuwait in the early 60s to the United States. He enrolled in school in Chicago and got his undergraduate in Industrial Engineering then his Masters in Economics from the University of Detroit. He received his Ph.D. from Howard University in Washington DC.

Retelling his profession, Dr. Abdrabboh said “I worked in the early years as a director for quality and reliability for American Sun Roof Corporation. Then I went to Saudi Arabia and worked for the United States Department of Defense as a training executive to build ships and to train Saudis. Then I came back and started teaching, I taught at Detroit College of Business for 20 years, Henry Ford for 25 years, Madonna University for 5 years, and Wayne State for 6 years.”

Dr. Abdrabboh feels very proud of his children who have gone to do great things in the public service space. He said “I have three children, two boys are lawyers, one of them was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm as Civil Rights Commissioner for the State of Michigan. My daughter Fatina, she’s a civil rights advocate, she went to Harvard University. My youngest boy is not in law but he got his JD (Juris Doctor) and he’s a businessman now.”

His daughter, Fatina Abdrabboh Executive Director of the American Muslim and Minority Advocacy League (AMAL) had glowing things to say about her father. “If I could think of a couple of words to describe my dad it would be hard working, committed and loving. Now that I am a parent with young children I see even more the impact of what our parents did on who we become. There is no doubt that my dad’s devotion to hard work, to family life, to our upbringing, to the community impacted the way my brothers and I chose to live our lives.” Bob proudly reflects on his daughter’s success saying “My wife and I we tried to send our kids to the Ivy League schools and Fatina wrote a small note on the refrigerator ‘I will be at Harvard,’ when she was in the 9th grade. And her dream became reality.”

Reflecting on his first impressions upon arrival in the US he tells us “It was great, I have so many relatives in New Jersey, probably 50 families they came in the early 1890s they passed away but their kids and grandkids are in New Jersey so the Abdrabboh family is well known and participates in politics and business and law in New Jersey. For my first job I worked with my cousins helping them out in the stores.”

He later adds “We came to Michigan in 1976. I am proud to say that the Arab Americans have really concentrated on two things, education and business. We have so many educated people since I came to this country, we have many doctors, lawyers, engineers and business people even in news media.”

Asking Dr. Abdrabboh on what needs to be done in order to present the real image of Arab Americans, he said, “By education and by participating in the political process, we must vote, we must help the organizations and candidates who really understand our culture and our values. We believe in the American value system and this is the best value system. We are American first and then we are Arab second.”

He added “We emphasize and focus on education, helping others and participating in the political processes. First, we must vote, we don’t take it for granted, we put the emphasis with our kids that they must vote. Second, belong to an organization.”

Dr. Abdrabboh ends our interview with him by saying “The Arab American community are from different countries, so we don’t have animosity among each other as ethnicities. We like to see our people, Arab Americans assimilated with the American way, react, work with them, deal with them, be involved with the community, you’re American by choice and I think most of us we made the best choice.”